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Several events in the history of America’s civil rights movement marked
turning points that changed or illuminated aspects of the movement. For
example, when a governor from Arkansas closed down the school system to
prevent Black children from attending white schools, it brought up
the resistance the movement would face. A turning point in the movement
was the formation of the Black Panther party, marking a change from
nonviolent protest. These events in the history of the movement are the
reasons why the public received such apprehension into the situation, and why
many new civil rights acts and laws were passed in the long run.
An important event was the ill-fated march of Selma, Alabama. Dr.
Martin Luther King, one of the leaders of the movement, began a voting
registration drive in Selma in early 1965. Black people trying to
register were met though with abuse and violence from white employees,
county police, and unfair literacy tests. To bring up the Black
public’s moral, Dr. King proposed a allusive march between Selma and
Montgomery. This march would take several days to complete because it
it stretched over 54 miles. Unfortunately, the first attempts for this march were
met with tear gas and mounted state troopers near the border of Selma.
These events sparked outrage from the public, and from president Linden
B. Johnson. The brutality of the city officials and state troopers
showed the public and the national government the field of White
resistance. It sparked the Voting rights act of 1965, soon after made
the 15th amendment. It abolished the unfair literacy tests, poll taxes,
or any other similar legal device that would have inhibited voters. The
act helped other minority groups because the literacy tests and poll
taxes inhibited them too. The march of Selma is also related to the
14th amendment that nationalizes the Bill of rights. This means the
14th amendment makes the 1st amendment applicable to the states, and one
of the guarantees of the 1st amendment is the right to peaceful
assembly, which the march of Selma was. After two more tries, the Selma
march proceeded without being stopped on Sunday, March 21, 1965. It was
25,000 strong, which was a great increase compared to the 3,200 in the
James Meredith was one of the first Black students to attend
previously “all White” schools. The governor of Mississippi then was
Ross Burnett. To ambush Meredith and the NAACP, he called upon the
Doctrine of Interpolation to prevent Meredith from registering. The
Doctrine was an old pre Civil War law that gave the states power to stop
laws from the federal government. This Doctrine became abolished when the
Confederacy lost the war. Although it may seem asinine, the issue about
the use of the Doctrine would have dragged on with pointless debating
while Meredith was still banned from attending the University.
President Kennedy, determined to see Meredith in Mississippi University,
sent U.S. Marshals to the University while he made a public broadcast
explaining his actions an the need for Meredith to be allowed to go to
“Old Miss.” A fight arouse between the White public and Marshals, but
eventually, Meredith was accepted. Meredith was fighting for Equality
before the Law and the Equal Protection Clause in the 14th amendment.
There had been a Separate-but-Equal Doctrine that was a constitutional
basis for segregation laws that were aimed at the Black minority group,
but also effected the other ethnic groups as well. The Doctrine was
formed when in 1896 the Supreme Court upheld a Louisiana law requiring
the segregation of Whites and Blacks in rail coaches. It held that the
law didn’t violate the Equal Protection Clause because the separate
facilities for Blacks were equal to those for Whites. Cases like
Meredith’s, chipped away at the Doctrine, causing Supreme Court
decisions like the confirmation that segregation by race in public
school is unconstitutional. This helped the other ethnic groups because
they were being segregated against too.
These events in the history of the civil rights movement were critical
for its success. They didn’t benefit just the Blacks but others as well. They helped change the way the Constitution was interpreted to benefit the other
minority groups as well. Schools today aren’t just made up of White and
Black people, but also consist of many other races. They shed
some light on the social situation at that time, and were turning points
in a long struggle. These single events, if interpreted corrected, can
explain the whole course of the movement.
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